The talk of an economic downturn and/or recession is starting to be heard among many economists right now.
Do you remember the last one? Richard and I do, because that is when we rebranded Richard’s major gift consultancy as Veritus Group and started aggressively expanding the work we do.
Yep, right at the beginning of a massive recession.
It was interesting because while many non-profits were scaling back their programs and cutting their direct-response/annual fund programs, many were reaching out to us saying, “We’ve got to figure out this major gift thing, because we see that major donors are still giving to their favorite charities even when the economy is bad.”
And, they were right… IF those non-profits had strong relationships with their donors.
So if we do get into an economic downturn in the next couple of years, how prepared is your organization to weather that storm? Do you feel confident that you have solid relationships built with your donors so that, even though they may give less, they’ll stay with you and ride out the storm with you?
I know this might sound self-serving, but this really is the truth. If you can get your major gift program in order you can, to a large degree, recession-proof your organization. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Create the right structure — This is where we start with a non-profit when we work with them. Get the structure right. It’s everything. It sets you up for success.

    a. Establish caseload pools
    b. Qualify the donors
    c. Tier your donors A-C
    d. Set revenue goals and cash-flow them
    e. Create a plan for every donor
    f. Set up a system of accountability and reporting
    g. Create a culture where the organization supports major gifts with offers for the MGO to present to donors and inspire them, a culture where MGOs have admin support and leadership buy-in.

  2. Know your donors — This is essential to recession-proofing your organization. You have to create strong relationships with your donors. This means listening to them, knowing their interests and passions, and creating meaningful touch points that will deepen their commitment to you. Over time, you’ll know exactly what it is they’ll want to invest in, and you’ll be able to inspire them with those great offers. But you have to do the work to really know them.
  3. Give your donors an exceptional experience — Organizations lose donors in an economic downturn when the donor feels they’re not needed. The best way to show a donor that he or she is needed is to show them the impact of their giving and to do it continuously. Thank them profusely and in creative ways. Show donors you know them as real people who have hopes and fears. Be personal with them. Help them become engaged on a deeper and deeper level. Celebrate them. Most non-profits fail miserably at this and, when times get tough, they feel it the most. Don’t make that mistake. Love your donors like never before. They’ll stay with you. You’ll have a competitive advantage over other organizations if you give your donors a great experience.

The economy is not going to keep booming forever. We all should know this. Recent indicators tell us that there may be trouble on the horizon. Now is the time to get your major gift program in order and create solid relationships that will weather any storm.
Creating a structure, developing strong relationships with donors, and giving those donors an incredible experience will endear them to your mission and help your organization be prepared to survive any economic downturn. (Tweet it!)
PS — If you want help with this, let’s talk.